A Book Talk and A Writing Lesson in One Easy Go

Since I try super hard to not work on the weekends, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be completely prepared for my lesson on Monday. I locked my classroom door on Friday, knowing I was short a mentor text.

Then, while sitting by the lake, enjoying the breeze and this novel a friend recommended, the text blurred my eyes, and I did the unthinkable: I crimped down the corner. Then I did it again and again and again.

I love it when the stars align, and the tools I need to teach writing appear in my own independent reading. I notice things and want to share them with students. And I know that they will see what I want them to see and understand why it matters because they see my passion in the discovery of something I want to show them. Studying author’s craft becomes easy when I share from the books I am currently reading.

Here’s a slice from Night Film by Marisha Pessl, a hauntingly beautiful book that’s written in multi-genre. (You want to check it out. I promise.)

The sagging green couch along the far wall was covered with an old blue comforter where someone had recently crashed–maybe literally. In a plate on the coffee table there was an outbreak of cigarette butts; next to that, rolling papers, a packet of Golden Virginia tobacco, an open package of Chips Ahoy!, a mangled copy of Interview, some emaciated starlet on the floor along with a white sweatshirt and some other clothes. (As if to expressly avoid this pile, a woman’s pair of black pantyhose clung for dear life to the back of the other beach chair.) A girl had kissed one wall while wearing black lipstick. An acoustic guitar was propped in the corner beside an old hiker’s backpack, the faded red nylon covered with handwriting.

I stepped over to read some of it: If this gets lost return it with all contents to Hopper C. Cole, 90 Todd Street, Mission, South Dakota 57555.

Hopper Cole from South Dakota. He was a hell of a long way from home.

Scribbled above that, beside a woman named Jade’s 310 phone number and hand-drawn Egyptian eye, were the words: “But now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it’s heading my way. Sometimes I grow so tired. But I know I’ve got one thing I got to do. Ramble on.”

So he was a Led Zeppelin fan.

Oh, the details, the description, the diction, the syntax. You can see it, too, right?

If I want my students to become effective writers, I have to show them effective models. It’s as simple as that. It’s even simpler when I can show them models from books I’m reading. Then they get a book talk and a writing lesson in one easy go.

I love it when that happens.


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